Spending time in a rural village in Africa makes you realize how much you take for granted on a daily basis. Not just physical things like clean water to drink, an abundance of food to eat, nice clothes to wear and a home to live... but its the not as obvious differences that truly break your heart.
The last thing I want to do is dehumanize the people of Kunchubwe Village by simply painting them into a sob story. However, I sometimes struggle in finding the balance of accurately portraying the reality of living in a village like Kunchubwe. Our heart for Kunchubwe Village and Africa is not based in pity but in love. We're not interested in "knowing-it-all" but partnering to find solutions.
It was amazing to talk to the women and hear about the physical changes in their lives but the highlight of my whole trip, of my whole year, was talking to them about the changes happening beyond the physical, on the inside.
In our story telling, above all else we hope to convey love and partnership.
This week we're sharing about all the life-changing stuff happening through Chicks Empowered. Today's story is my favorite because it was completely unexpected and its all about community.
I read somewhere recently that adult friendships are hard. Its true, finding a community where you feel belonged isn't easy. In my ignorance, I guess I assumed this was a "first-world-problem" but it turns out what they say about assuming is true. Finding community is hard around the world, even when you live in a small village in rural Zambia. Community is about more than simple location or convenience.
I asked every woman in Chicks Empowered a series of questions and one of the questions was "What's the best part about being involved in this project?"
"The best part about this project is its helped me make friends that I never had before" - Elizabeth
To be honest, Elizabeth's answer totally threw me off guard. I assumed all the ladies had been friends before and shared in each others' lives and I was wrong.
Elizabeth isn't the only one who answered this way. Almost unanimously, the ladies all mentioned the community they've built through Chicks Empowered as one of the best things.
Elizabeth told me, "I used to just wave hi at these ladies before because that was the polite thing to do. Now, they know me, they know my struggles, they know my family, they know my life."
Alexandre hosts an hour long meeting every Monday morning. In the meeting, they discuss more than what to do for the upcoming week. This weekly meeting has become a place of refuge to speak freely about their lives. Most of the women shared with me stories about adversities they've faced since beginning Chicks Empowered but told me that because of the encouragement and support of this team they were able to face their adversities head on.
"The best part about this project is the unity its brought us. We've become a team. that gives me hope about my future." - Rosemary
Many of our ladies are finding out who they are, what they're capable of accomplishing, and their value in this community. For maybe the first time in their lives, they're surrounded by a group of people cheering them on. This community is giving them hope. Its giving me hope.
My greatest accomplishment in 2015 was being accepted into this tightly knit group. You could have easily made a montage from my trip about all the things girls do- we laughed, we danced, we talked about boys and kids and love, we hugged on each other, and gave each other encouragement. They let me be apart of this super special thing - their community.
On my last day in the village I gave the women this picture to hang in the poultry house, likely the first printed picture of themselves they've ever owned. I told them, "if you ever feel like you're in this all alone, look at this picture and remember we're a team. We're all in this together."